ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -Bill Polian lost a competitor and regained a confidante when Marv Levy stepped down as the Buffalo Bills general manager.
``Any time a man like that leaves the game, the game is poorer for it. And certainly the Bills will miss him and the NFL will miss him,'' said Polian, who was the Bills GM during Levy's Hall of Fame heyday as the team's coach in the 1990s. ``The upside for me is that I can talk a lot more football with him now because we're not competitors any more.''
Too bad, Polian - now president of the Indianapolis Colts - didn't have a coaching job open, because that is ultimately what Levy - even at 82 - still yearned to do and considered a reason why he called it quits on Monday after his two-year contract expired.
The move came 10 years to the day after Levy retired as the Bills coach. And his latest stint didn't come near to matching his previous 11-plus season run, which included the Bills winning an unprecedented four consecutive AFC titles.
Levy, though, was confident he did his part in turning around the franchise despite the team's second consecutive 7-9 finish that extended its playoff drought to a franchise record eight straight years.
``It has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely,'' Levy said in a statement released by the Bills. ``Dick Jauron, his coaching staff and an admirable core of high-character players are heading in the right direction.''
It'll be on Levy's successor to stay the course in building the Bills into a bona fide playoff contender.
Levy will play a role in the transition, but it's evident that his days in the NFL - he was the league's oldest front-office executive - might be over as he prepares to return to his hometown of Chicago.
``I feel compelled to now turn my energies and my time to other endeavors that intrigue me,'' Levy said. ``There will always remain a part of me, however, that walks down that tunnel out onto the playing field at Ralph Wilson Stadium on those excitement-charged autumn Sunday afternoons.''
His presence will be missed by Bills players, who learned of Levy's departure when he addressed the team during its season-ending meeting Monday morning.
``He seemed to be happy and eager and ready to move on to the next phase of his career,'' safety George Wilson said. ``We're very thankful to be a part of what he's built here.''
Bills owner Ralph Wilson credited Levy for bringing stability to a franchise that had alienated its fans and been undone by questionable coaching and personnel decisions under former team president Tom Donahoe, who was fired after the 2005 season.
``I will always be grateful for his service,'' Wilson said. ``When we needed a new focus and direction, Marv improved our organization's morale, attitude and environment: All of that, plus the stability we needed to move forward.''
Levy can be credited for rebuilding through the draft, as opposed to free agency. The Bills are stocked with a young core of players who have talent but have yet to jell.
He also earned marks for hiring Jauron, who kept players focused as the team endured a rash of injuries, finishing with 17 on injured reserve. That group included tight end Kevin Everett, now walking after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in Buffalo's season opener.
But there's still a long way to go for the team, whose 53 wins this decade are tied with San Francisco for fifth-fewest in the league - not including Houston, which rejoined the NFL in 2002.
Polian is confident in the Bills future.
``First of all, he restored the professionality of the franchise, and he brought in a coach that I think was outstanding,'' Polian told The Associated Press. ``I know (Jauron) shares (Levy's) values, and he clearly has the team on the right track.''
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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